The figure 8 cast on is similar to the Turkish cast on. It is done with two needles (circulars being ideal), and it produces an extra row of live stitches, which can be used as a top or bottom edge or as a way to work in the round. The only real difference is that, instead of wrapping the yarn around both needles at the same time in one direction (Turkish cast on), you wrap around the needles individually, moving the yarn around one needle in one direction and around the other in the opposite direction in a figure 8 (hence the name). Since the wraps aren’t anchored to anything, the stitches tend to loosen as you work across, so this cast on works better with fewer stitches, like the toes of socks and centers of scarves.
“So what is a figure 8?” you ask. It’s one circle stacked on top of another circle. Think Peeps, those odd little marshmallow chicks sold around Easter, only figure 8’s are two dimensional, so think Peep sliced vertically (Crossagital Peep. How gruesome). For a more precise sense of figure-8-ness, place two cups or cans next to each other on a table. Then wind a piece of yarn clockwise around one of them, making sure the yarn goes completely around it, and wrap the yarn counterclockwise around the other cup or can. If you trace the figure formed by the yarn, you notice two circles that touch where the yarn crosses between the cans, a little like a pair of eye glasses with a really short bridge. This is a figure-8, and if you keep alternately wrapping clockwise around the first can and counterclockwise around the second, you are making a figure-8 cast on. Here’s how you do it with needles and yarn.
1. Make a slip knot around one needle.
2. Hold both needles in your right hand, and point the tips left. The needles should be side-by-side, like the planks in a floor, and the slip knot is on the needle closest to you.
3. Grab the working yarn with the thumb and index finger of your left hand and guide it around the needles in the following way, keeping the needles more or less still.
a. Guide the yarn over the needle that is farthest from you, lead it down behind that needle, bring it under the needle and toward you, then pull it up between the needles. This puts a yarn over on the needle.
b. Guide the yarn over the needle that is closest to you, lead it down in front of that needle, bring it under the needle and away from you, then pull it up between the needles. This puts a backward yarn over on the needle.
c. Repeat A and B until the right number of stitches has been cast on to each needle. I always cast on one extra stitch so I can ignore the slip knot that is on one needle and the partial wrap that is on the other.
4. Gently tug on the tip of the needle that is closest to you, stopping when the wraps or stitches are in the center of the needle or on the cable if you’re using a circular. Then drop the tip.
5. Knit the wraps or stitches on the other needle in the usual way. The stitches are sloppy and loose so it helps to hold them in place with the fingers of your right hand.
6. Continue working back and forth on that needle, or work in the round as you normally would.
When it’s time to work the stitches on the idle needle, remember that they’re wrapped in the opposite direction (backward yarn overs), so you’ll need to knit or purl them through the back of the loop to untwist them. If that sounds too daunting, just slip each stitch to the right needle as if you were going to knit it, and then go back and knit or purl them in the usual way.
Making the figure-8 wraps is not difficult. The first few times, remembering what direction to wrap feels complicated. Then your left hand finds the rhythm, and your stitches are on the needle in no time.